Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Driving Record

I’ve been driving for 37 years, since 1975. After driving around Macon the first two years, I was thrown to the wolves in Atlanta. Except for the two years I lived on campus, I’ve been commuting daily ever since, logging 15,000-20,000 miles a year. That means I’m driven about 600,000 miles. In that time I’ve had four fender benders and three speeding tickets. Not bad, I suppose.

In the past I considered myself an excellent driver. Now I wonder if my skills are diminishing, so I try to be all the more careful. I still think I’m a better driver than at least 95% of those on the road (though this list below may belie that claim).

Driving an unfamiliar Dodge Charge company car last week, I accidentally packed up into a Ford Escape in a parking lot. Damaged the very corner of its rear bumper. The Escape was parked in a weird space, in the middle of a small lot. Still, I felt stupid. It was the first “accident” I’d had in 27 years. Here are the others (dates are approximate):

1. Accident: Shallowford Rd at I-85 (1979). During morning rush hour I impatiently turned left to enter 85 South, in front of a car zipping around a corner. The car smashed into my passenger side rear quarter panel, narrowly missing my roommate Wayne Smith.

2. Fender bender: Ptree & West Ptree: (1980). Changing lanes during rush hour, I impatiently tried to change lanes, bumping into another car.

3. Fender bender: Athens GA (in snow): (1981). After the annual marathon basketball game in February, snow began to fall as we drove off the campus. Ridiculously, our caravan of cars tried to make it back anyway. On the outskirts of town Paul Tankersly’s Pinto slid to the shoulder in front of me. Going down a hill, I couldn’t stop. Fortunately, the Pinto didn’t explode. We turned around and spent the night in Athens. The next morning (a Sunday) we turned on the TV and saw several SPdL friends sitting in the choir loft…of FBC Atlanta.

4. Accident: North Druid Hills Rd (1985). Zipping along in the left lane, I glanced at a building to my left. Looked back to find the cars in front of me stopped, turning left. Slammed on the brakes, but it helped little. Totaled my Subaru. Fortunately, I’d only recently begun to wear my seat belt. Saved my life.

5. Speeding ticket: Columbia SC (1989). Driving my father-in-law’s pickup on 20 west.

6. Speeding ticket: Whitmire SC (1995). On a lonely back country road at dusk, headed to the in-laws.

7. Speeding ticket: Powder Springs (2007). Speed trap.

8. Fender bender: Augusta (2011). Backing the Charger into the Escape.

Other, more minor incidents:

9. Locked keys in car: Macon (1977). At school.

10. Ran out of gas: Wesley & Moores Mill (1981). With Brett. Yearwood was following, and he rescued me.

11. Ran out of gas: I-85 & Shallowford (1982). Returning after midnight from Tucker, my car died on 85 South. Found a phone and woke up Don Head. He wasn’t happy, but he was my savior. I still owe him!

12. Flat tire: Techwood Ave (1982). My car was parked. My grandfather’s AAA fixed it.

13. Locked keys in car: Ptree & Collier (1984). Getting gas around midnight. Called roommate Keith, who begrudgingly saved me.

14. Speeding (no ticket): Pageland SC (1992). Pulled over while returning to Jefferson after Ceil’s HS reunion. The cop bent to look at my passenger and recognized Ceil. Only reason I wasn’t ticketed.

15. Two flat tires: Marion SC (1994). Returning from a week at the beach in the new red Jetta, with baby Will on board. Peering right at a weird factory, both driver-side tires hit a raised concrete barrier, bending both aluminum rims. Ceil hopped in her parent’s car with Will. I was stuck for several hours, while Ceil’s brother found a spare tire and rim.

16. Flat tire: I-20 near Greensboro GA (1997). Returning to Atlanta with a trunk full of Christmas presents. Had to change the passenger-side tire alongside busy I-20, in the dark/cold (there were a few other flat tires over the years as well).

17. Speeding (no ticket): Roswell (2000). Speed limit sign was blocked by a tree.

18. Illegal turn (no ticket): Roswell (2009). Pulled in front of a police car, who had the right-of-way. Not smart.

So half my slip-ups took place before I turned 27, during the first ten years I drove,. Since then I’ve averaged a “driving incident” once every seven years / 100,000 miles.

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